Too much–or too little–Catholic influence in politics?

The Catholic Church, operating on the doctrine that she is the continuing presence and ministry of Jesus Christ on earth, … Continued

The Catholic Church, operating on the doctrine that she is the continuing presence and ministry of Jesus Christ on earth, has always said both a “yes” and a “no” to the power of government. Christ, when asked in Matthew 22 whether it was lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not, declared, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God.”

What belongs to Caesar is obedience to just laws and a faithful exercise of one’s citizenship. The Catholic Church does not and should not aim to make a career out of criticizing government.

Allison Shelley

GETTY IMAGES

Catholic University student James Glasgow holds a rosary and prays during an vigil called “Encircle the Court in Prayer” on March 25, 2012 in Washington, DC. Christian anti-abortion proponents laid 3,300 flowers around the U.S. Supreme Court to symbolize the 3,300 children who they say die every day from abortion.

At the same time, what belongs to God alone is absolute obedience, and worship as the only one who can fulfill the deepest human longings for happiness and security. When, therefore, a human authority contradicts divine authority, the Catholic Church teaches that the human authority in that instance loses its claim on our conscience and must be opposed in regard to the immoral behavior it is requiring.

That is the crux over the current conflict regarding the HHS mandate. The church cannot be the church if she contradicts her teachings and values and disobeys the God she exists to serve and proclaim.

So whether the current problem will be a turning point in large measure depends on the Obama administration. Will it push the church to the point of having to shut down its institutions that provide social services, education, and health care to so many millions of Americans? Or will it have the wisdom to continue what has been and can always be a fruitful and respectful collaboration of church and state in the service of human needs?

The church is called to be an equal opportunity critic. She must have the freedom to challenge all, across political lines, with the Gospel call to repentance. The institutional church in the United States has at times been called “the Democrats at prayer,” because of so many alliances and loyalties forged through the provision of social programs. At the same time, I have heard – and myself received – criticism of the church being too Republican, as we advance aspects of the Gospel message that in fact help Republican candidates.


View Photo Gallery: With nearly one in four Americans in its fold, a powerful lobby and extensive charity work, the Catholic Church is one of the most influential institutions in America.

But the fact is that the platform of the church’s teaching and mission cannot be and must not be that of any political party. It is, rather, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is not a matter of whether the church endorses a political party or movement. It is, rather, whether the party or movement endorses the church’s message and mission. A candidate or party that embraces some aspect of the church’s message or mission will benefit – at least in the eyes of Catholics who are committed to their faith – when the church, as she must, advances that aspect of her message or mission.

The way to evaluate whether, for her part, the church is being faithful to the balance and independence she is called to have, is rather simple, and it’s a litmus test I use as I preach the anti-abortion message and help other priests do the same, including during election years. I ask this simple question: If today, opposing candidates or parties swapped their positions on abortion, would any aspect of our message change? Indeed, our message will not change if it is rooted in fidelity to the Gospel. Whether that message helps or hurts a candidate, party, or political movement won’t be the church’s fault; it will be theirs.

Fr. Frank Pavone is a Catholic priest and national director of Priests for Life.

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  • Vote Yes Scotland 2014

    GOP or the Catholic Church .Honestly i would be loath to leave my children with either .

  • ccnl1

    From the Land of Loading More Comments:

    Father Pavone,

    For your next homily:

    The reality of contraception and STD control: –

    Note: Some words hyphenated to defeat an obvious word filter. …

    The Brutal Effects of Stupidity:

    : The failures of the widely used birth “control” methods i.e. the Pill ( 8.7% failure rate) and male con-dom (17.4% failure rate) have led to the large rate of abortions and S-TDs in the USA. Men and women must either recognize their responsibilities by using the Pill or co-ndoms properly and/or use safer methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.- Failure rate statistics provided by the Gut-tmacher Inst-itute. Unfortunately they do not give the statistics for doubling-up i.e. using a combination of the Pill and a condom.

    Added information before making your next move:

    from the CDC-2006

    “Se-xually transmitted diseases (STDs) remain a major public health challenge in the United States. While substantial progress has been made in preventing, diagnosing, and treating certain S-TDs in recent years, CDC estimates that approximately 19 million new infections occur each year, almost half of them among young people ages 15 to 24.1 In addition to the physical and psy-ch-ological consequences of S-TDs, these diseases also exact a tremendous economic toll. Direct medical costs as-sociated with STDs in the United States are estimated at up to $14.7 billion annually in 2006 dollars.”

    And from:

    Consumer Reports, January, 2012

    “Yes, or-al se-x is se-x, and it can boost cancer risk-

    Here’s a crucial message for teens (and all se-xually active “post-teeners”: Or-al se-x carries many of the same risks as va-ginal se-x, including human papilloma virus, or HPV. And HPV may now be overtaking tobacco as the leading cause of or-al cancers in America in people under age 50.

    “Adolescents don’t think or-al se-x is something to worry about,” said Bonnie Halpern-Felsher professor of pediatrics at the University of C

  • seattle11

    In the major electoral “swing state” in which I now live, fyi have never heard the Catholic Church referred to as “Democrats at prayer” — but have often heard criticism of the Catholic Church & its perceived outspoken hierarchical representatives in the public square as inappropriately (even outrageously) “using” the name of Christ — or purporting to speak only for Christ — while designedly speaking in partisan ways that do in fact help the political party they now favor — as Pavone puts it, “Republican candidates”.

    Christ would have none of this. He was not a partisan — nor can faithfulness to His message ever faithfully be presented so.

    Yet those who say “freedom of religion” does not permit one religion to impose its doctrine on those who do not believe as they do are ignored by those “”preaching” as Pavone does.

    The bishops & such who so speak seem to believe that the ideal of the just democratic republican civil society conceived by the Framers of our Constitution includes only a freedom of religion clause in our First Amendment, not also an “establishment” clause forbidding state establishment of a religion — i.e., that their freedom to practice their religion extends to their ability to impose in civil law their religion’s doctrines on those who do not believe as they do.

    The Founding Fathers would have had none of this.

    At their peril the bishops & such who so speak ignore the fact that the freedom of religion granted in our civil society’s First Amendment is no license to ignore the religious rights of fellow citizens not members of their church who are just as endowed with “religious liberty”.

    They cheapen the intrinsic nature of “religious liberty” to attempt so to appropriate it — & risk losing it for all.

    They also risk being perceived as a (hypocritical) “one-trick” pony.

    Where, e.g., were the bishops when clergy of many denominations were arrested for being in prayer outside Congressional chambers to protest the draconian cuts to social services en

  • corintonic

    Quick hypothetical, China is ready to invade the United States Of America, what should we do run to our churches and pray the invasion away or have the full might of our TAX PAYERS FUNDED DEFENSES and go to war?? Pray all you want but the courage of the American soldiers is what I trust the most.

  • corintonic

    What the church silence an opposition to the Healthcare debate speaks volume, that abortion rules everything that they care, poor people with out healthcare? Who cares? Pre existing conditions? Who cares? Bankrupted by healthcare bills? Who cares? A fetus is way more important than the true living person, the church is HYPOCRITICAL WHEN IT COMES TO LIVES, WHY NO SPEAK AND EX COMUNICATE THE POLITICIANS ITCHING FOR WARS???

  • ccnl1

    Why the Christian Right no longer matters in presidential elections:

    Once again, all the conservative votes in the country “ain’t” going to help a “pro-life” presidential candidate, i.e Mitt Romney, Newton Leroy Gingrich, Ron Paul or Rick Santorum, in 2012 as the “Immoral Majority” rules the country and will be doing so for awhile. The “Immoral Majority” you ask?

    The fastest growing USA voting bloc: In 2008, the 70+ million “Roe vs. Wade mothers and fathers” of aborted womb-babies” whose ranks grow by two million per year i.e. 78+ million “IM” voters in 2012.

    2008 Presidential popular vote results:

    69,456,897 for pro-abortion/choice BO, 59,934,814 for “pro-life” JM.

    And the irony:

    And all because many women fail to take the Pill once a day or men fail to use a condom even though in most cases these men have them in their pockets. (maybe they should be called the “Stupid Majority”?)

    The failures of the widely used birth “control” methods i.e. the Pill and male condom have led to the large rate of abortions ( one million/yr) and STDs (19 million/yr) in the USA. Men and women must either recognize their responsibilities by using the Pill or condoms properly and/or use other safer birth control methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and STDs.

    i.e. If the Pill and male condoms were used properly, abortion would not be an issue and Obama would not be president.

  • pshediack

    How can one be loud in public about abortion, but silent on the death penalty?

    I’ve yet to hear a Catholic priest, bishop or cardinal speak out as strongly on the death penalty and politicians as I’ve heard them do with abortion and politicians.

    The Knights of Columbus convention in 2004 when the Knights cheered “four more years, four more years” when George W. Bush addressed them is a perfect example of similar silence about the death penalty. The proper response to George W. Bush would have been no invitation to speak at their convention due to his actions related to the death penalty or to have walked out en massed when he started speaking. The Knights did neither, in essence, condoning his support of the death penalty.

    You can’t be anti-abortion and pro-death penalty; they’re inconsistent positions on natural life from the womb to the tomb.

    And yes, I’m a practicing Catholic and a Knight of Columbus. I’m offended by the hierarchy who is treats pro-death penalty politicians lighter than pro-choice politicians. I was insulted by the K of C in 2004 and could not get any of their international officers to return my calls about the “four more years” cheers.

  • DOBRYDN

    The Catholic church is a foreign nation with diplomatic immunity. It has agents which obey its will within US borders. They should register as agents of a foreign power and any church which engages in political activity within the US should have its tax exemptions annulled, a protest against a foreign nation interfering in US internal affairs made, and their ambassador declared persona non grata and ordered to leave immediately. Diplomatic immunity should be revoked and our ambassador to the Vatican should be recalled permanently. Enough is enough.

  • Cobalt1

    This Priest seemingly unwittingly exposes the fault in his self professed “litmus test:” it’s a one-issue test that by definition can not encompass the full scope of Catholic doctrine which, according to the author, the church “must” advance.

    Why is the priest using just the abortion litmus test? Why not the death penalty? Why not the commitment to the poor (that other “neediest” group… the one that the GOP seems to have forgotten in their tireless pursuit of defending the “unborn”)? Why not the commitment to love thy neighbor? Or to be a good steward of the Earth?

    So where is this “cafeteria-style” defender of the Church when it comes to rallying against candidates who fail abysmally on these other tenets… some of which are far more central to the Church’s and Christ’s gospel? Is he reading a different bible than the rest of us? One with a bunch of pages removed?

  • noseferatu

    If Fr. Pavone wants the Pope as head of State he should move to the Vatican.

  • CathyB3

    Mrsm, you are all over the map.

    First, realize that the contraceptive/insurance law will cover all religious groups. Please tell us how YOU feel about a Christian Science owned company refusing to offer any health insurance at all.

    Second, since morality is your forte, why are YOU not calling for the “jail house” for the RCC abusers and those who covered up for them?

    How can YOU accept the death penalty when it is against the directives of the RCC?

  • clarendon67

    All the church is interested in is abortion. They very rarely talk about the death penalty, poverty or income inequlity. All they talk about is abortion and contraception and this falls right into the republicans’ talking points. I see the church as siding with republicans in their war against women and poor people. The same effort they put out in the abortion and contraception issues they should also put out in the death penalty and the war on poverty issues. As far as I am concerned the church is an arm of the republican party.

  • bholly72

    Once again, the RC Church demands that we tailor our public policies to their theological fictions. Let’s remember, Jesus said nothing about contraception or abortion. They just make this stuff up, and then demand that the rest of us treat their fictions with “respect,” by which they mean obedience.

  • MayorEd

    You have missed the entire meaning of Mathew and Mark and misquoted your own link. According to Abe Lincoln government does those things that can not be accomplished by the individual and Jesus is saying that we should repay (your quote) our portion. Government and Religion coexist, their goals are different but not mutually exclusive. Pay your taxes to fix roads, donate to the Church to help others. As for Church actions being supportive of any government, that is totally untrue. The Pope visited Cuba to show the people that the Church was there for them and not to support Castro. The Church builds homes in San Juan de Limay, Nicaragua to provide shelter for the poor and not support the government. The Church distributes birth control devises in Africa to help the villagers and not the oppressive regimes. The Church takes care of those dying of AIDES in DC because they are human beings deserving of dignity and with no regard for the several governments who impose their wills on the District. Are the Republicans capitalizing on this? No. Are the Democrats? An equal no. What’s more it isn’t their goal. It equally should not be the goal of any preacher to insert their beliefs on the government.

  • vicsoir1

    The Catholic Church has been losing members wholesale after the priest pederasty scandal exploded worldwide over the past twenty years that revealed the lengths its high officials went to to hide or destroy evidence of its culpability. So much for its infallibility doctrine evaporating because of the morality aspect involved in that doctrine that disintegrated its claim.

  • ccnl1

    Nothing fictional about the following:

    The reality of contraception and STD control: – from a guy who enjoys intelligent se-x-

    Note: Some words hyphenated to defeat an obvious word filter. …

    The Brutal Effects of Stupidity:

    : The failures of the widely used birth “control” methods i.e. the Pill ( 8.7% failure rate) and male con-dom (17.4% failure rate) have led to the large rate of abortions and S-TDs in the USA. Men and women must either recognize their responsibilities by using the Pill or co-ndoms properly and/or use safer methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.- Failure rate statistics provided by the Gut-tmacher Inst-itute. Unfortunately they do not give the statistics for doubling up i.e. using a combination of the Pill and a condom.

    Added information before making your next move:

    from the CDC-2006

    “Se-xually transmitted diseases (STDs) remain a major public health challenge in the United States. While substantial progress has been made in preventing, diagnosing, and treating certain S-TDs in recent years, CDC estimates that approximately 19 million new infections occur each year, almost half of them among young people ages 15 to 24.1 In addition to the physical and psy-ch-ological consequences of S-TDs, these diseases also exact a tremendous economic toll. Direct medical costs as-sociated with STDs in the United States are estimated at up to $14.7 billion annually in 2006 dollars.”

    And from:

    Consumer Reports, January, 2012

    “Yes, or-al se-x is se-x, and it can boost cancer risk-

    Here’s a crucial message for teens (and all se-xually active “post-teeners”: Or-al se-x carries many of the same risks as va-ginal se-x, including human papilloma virus, or HPV. And HPV may now be overtaking tobacco as the leading cause of or-al cancers in America in people under age 50.

    “Adolescents don’t think or-al se-x is something to worry about,” said Bonnie Halpern-Felsher professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco. “They view i

  • PhilyJimi

    Keep drinking the Kool Aid.

    Most religions and specifically the Abrahamic religions are divisive. They teach a poison that divides and creates judgmental walls between humans beings that still is the source of most (not all) of our major Geo-poltical problems in the world.

    Too many good people make excuses for the atrocities of their religion they end up directly supporting an immoral organization. It makes me want to vomit when I hear Catholic apologist ignore the child rapers and continue to fund the church and only cherry pick the good parts. It is kind of like saying since Hitler built hospitals and did other good things we should ignore what he did to the Jews. The immoral logic is as twisted as it can get.

  • UniteOrDie

    Wow, what intelligent arguments SODDI and PhilyJimi make. I can’t believe WP allows such pathetic mud slinging. I’m reporting you both.

  • UniteOrDie

    Every time an article about the Catholic Church is published in WP, the religion haters flood the forums with hate speech. It is pathetic that WP insists their comments section is an “open forum.” All it does it give voice to the ignorant and stupid.

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